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Bill Franks, 1946-2018, appointed by Hubbard to ‘reform’ Scientology after Snow White scandal

[Bill Franks, left, with former mission holder Bent Corydon last year]

We spoke with Bill Franks a few weeks ago on the phone after we heard he had entered hospice care. We wanted him to know how much we appreciated the help we got from him on our book about Paulette Cooper. He was characteristically humble about it, saying that he hadn’t done much.

In fact, Bill Franks was one of the longest tenured whistleblowers of Scientology, a top former executive who tried time and again to help get the word out about what he’d seen during his meteoric rise in the organization.

He joined Scientology in 1968 and met L. Ron Hubbard aboard the yacht Apollo two years later. Hubbard vanished early in 1980 in the turmoil after the disastrous “Snow White Program” that had church operatives infiltrating US and foreign government agencies, resulting in eleven top Scientologists being prosecuted and eventually going to prison. As Jon Atack explained in his book A Piece of Blue Sky, major reorganizing after the Snow White debacle was needed, and a young Bill Franks suddenly found himself elevated to the organization’s highest spot…

In December 1980, the long-dormant post of Executive Director International was resurrected. It had remained vacant since Hubbard’s supposed resignation in 1966. Scientologists the world over were aware that Hubbard, the Founder, Commodore and Source, was the real head of their Church, but under the new corporate strategy, it was necessary to conceal Hubbard’s control. The new Executive Director International was Bill Franks, and he was to be “ED Int for life.” It turned out to be a very short life. Scientologists the world over assumed that Franks was Hubbard’s immediate junior, and was being groomed to succeed the Commodore.

Bill was 34 years old at the time. He was also the Chairman of the Board of the Church of Scientology International, and he had an enormous task — to purge the “Guardian’s Office” that had been responsible for the Snow White disaster, and calm things down so that eventually, Hubbard could return from wherever he was hiding.


But just a year later, at the end of 1981, Bill was ousted as Hubbard became convinced that Bill was part of a “mutiny” with some mission holders, Atack writes…

Hubbard was given the CMO account of events, and started to send dispatches to senior executives at Gilman describing the Mission Holders’ “mutiny,” and an infiltration by enemy agents. Hubbard raged about Don Purcell and the early days, when “vested interests” had tried to prise Dianetics from his control. Swift action was taken to counter the “mutiny.” On December 23, 1981, a Policy Letter was issued entitled “International Watchdog Committee”…Four days later, Executive Director International “for life” Bill Franks was replaced. The coup was very nearly complete.

Bill was declared “suppressive” in 1982. But rather than stay quiet, just a year after he was declared Bill was talking publicly about what he’d seen, telling Time magazine in 1983 about the new young cohort taking over Scientology, which included an upstart named David Miscavige…

“It’s just a power grab,” he says of the new leader’s acts. Their motive, he charges, is “totally money, absolute greed.

Eight years later, Time quoted Bill again in its epic 1991 cover story that called Scientology a “thriving cult of greed and power”…

“[John Travolta] felt pretty intimidated about this getting out and told me so,” recalls William Franks, the church’s former chairman of the board. “There were no outright threats made, but it was implicit. If you leave, they immediately start digging up everything.” Franks was driven out in 1981 after attempting to reform the church.

Bill’s tenure running Scientology may have been relatively brief, but we found his stories fascinating. In particular, it was Bill who told us that when he was dismantling the Guardian’s Office, he went through its files on Paulette Cooper and was astonished to find just how obsessive Hubbard was with her. There was no doubt, he told us, that it was Hubbard who personally directed the years of efforts to try and destroy her.

We were grateful for Bill’s help, and over the years he was an invaluable resource for journalists who wanted to understand a crucial period in Scientology history. He was only disappointed, he told us, that after all that effort, the church was still abusing people and hadn’t been stopped by a government investigation or some other intervention.

We assured him that his contribution won’t be forgotten.


[Bill Franks, right, with Janis Gillham Grady and Kerry Gleeson at a reunion last year]

We’re grateful to Janis Gillham Grady, who has written up this more complete account of Bill’s life in Scientology…

It is time to say good bye to a great friend – Bill Franks. I have had the pleasure of knowing Bill for over 48 years.


Bill graduated from college in June 1968, and joined the U.S. Marine Corp. However, while he was in boot camp, he broke his back in a car accident, bringing a fast end to his Marine Corp career. While recovering from the broken back, Bill got into Scientology in Los Angeles and over the years trained to Class VI Auditor.

In November of 1970, Bill arrived on the ship Apollo, which was my home at that time. This was the point when I first met Bill. After Bill had bumped into L. Ron Hubbard on the deck, Bill decided to join the Sea Org.

After completing his executive training on board the ship, Bill was sent to the Los Angeles Organization as the Commanding Officer with instructions to get the LA Org delivering Scientology and to expand it. However, though Bill did indeed greatly expand the LA Org on an immediate basis, I remember reports that arrived from the Guardian’s Office (to LRH) about Bill along with several other executives in the LA area, who were supposedly involved in “crush regging,” “postulate checks,” going to Samurai movies and having too much fun with pretend sword fights instead of working. Nothing really unusual for a group of young men in their early twenties who had dedicated their lives to “Clearing the planet.”

In December 1971, Bill was sent as part of a Command Team to Boston org to make it boom. After doing well in Boston, Bill returned to LA org and again began to greatly expand the org. Later, Bill returned to the ship Apollo where he ended up working directly with LRH as one of the administrative executives for the ship organization. It was during this time that I got to know Bill a little better through my message runs to him from LRH.

In 1974, he returned to the Apollo to join his wife at that time. Based upon some Guardian’s Office reports, Bill was briefly posted to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) until he ran into LRH on deck. LRH was very surprised to see Bill on the ship and in the RPF, so LRH reprieved him at once (cancelled his RPF assignment).

While on the ship, Bill courageously helped fend off some very upset locals who were rioting against us and throwing large rocks and stones at us and our ship while we were in Madeira. Bill even risked his own life to help get another crew member safely back aboard amid the riots.

In 1975, while I was on a troubleshooting mission to Washington DC Org, my mission in charge and I requested a new Executive Director (ED) to head up the DC org as we felt the existing ED was not making it. Bill was selected and he was sent to DC for us to put him on the job of Executive Director DC Org. Bill remained in DC for several years where he built one of the largest Scientology organizations internationally in his usual style. Bill was a very strong and determined executive; even later, Bill admits that there were some people who did not appreciate his determination and how he went about getting things done. For this, he has apologized to those he realized that he had offended. But as a Commodore’s Messenger and also as a Missionaire, I always knew I could depend on Bill to get any job done.

After the Apollo was closed down and everyone moved to the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Bill was called to Flag for “clean up,” where he was security checked by David Mayo for six weeks, until it was said he was a List One R/Ser (having evil purposes against things or people like LRH, Mary Sue, Scientology, etc). For this reason, he was sent to the RPF where he lived in a room with about 60 other men, sleeping on a mattress on the floor and working very long hours at hard labor for the next seven months. Still having the purpose and dedication to “clearing the planet” Bill pushed forward despite thoughts of wanting to leave the Sea Org and believing the general scene would improve and he would get back on top again.

Upon completion of the RPF, Bill did work his way back up the executive ladder again and was posted as the Commanding Officer of International Training Org (ITO). The work Bill did to build the ITO and train the outer orgs’ executives resulted in LRH eventually appointing Bill to the highest administrative job in Scientology management: Executive Director International for life. As Executive Director International, he had become senior to the Guardian’s Office and he participated in the dismantling of the Guardian’s Office because of criminal actions of the GO which had been exposed by the FBI raid in June 1977.

As the Executive Director International, Bill saw many issues he did not support such as the monthly increase of Scientology service fees and rampant mismanagement of the Scientology Franchises (Missions). Bravely, Bill took it upon himself to try and correct these problems, but the reports which were sent to LRH about Bill’s activities were greatly misconstrued, which made Bill a target to be taken down. Not going quietly, Bill had the Missions Holders support but that didn’t hold up well when it came to standing up to David Miscavige (DM) and his thugs during DMs early steps to grabbing control and usurping the Church of Scientology. Attempts to reach LRH were, of course, stopped by DM who was monitoring the communication lines. So Bill was taken down…… but not without a huge and defiant fight! This was all some 36 years ago.

Bill moved on, and left Scientology. He left to build a business empire of his own.

He returned to his roots to marry his college sweetheart. Anne Preston and Bill were married 34 years and they raised two beautiful and successful daughters together.

Over the years since Bill left Scientology, he still felt a strong connection to many friends he made in Scientology, and he made it a point to visit and still hang out with them when possible. To his last day, it was the friends that Bill had made while in the Sea Org and whom he talked about and contacted to say his good byes. He said that he had never felt that same camaraderie with any other group of people in his life and that he will miss them all.

Bill’s last request to me was for me in coordination with his wife and daughters, to host an Ex- Sea Org/Scientologist reunion on his behalf. He had planned to write the invitation himself but was not able to do so in the end. He was very excited when I told him my plan to host it in the Los Angeles area, since that is the area where he made his close friends and his original camaraderie and strong connections with those good folks, who to this day remained his good friends.

Please stay tuned as the Memorial Ex Sea Org/Scientology Reunion evolves in the honor of Bill Franks in Southern California. The exact time and place will be announced as the event is organized.

— Janis Gillham Grady

And Jeffrey Augustine sent over this final podcast he did with Bill which has not previously been released…



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Greta Van Susteren]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!


Now on sale: Twice the Miss Lovely!

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. What a pleasure it is for us to work with her on this after we wrote about her ordeal as a victim of Scientology’s “Fair Game” campaigns in our 2015 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, which is also on sale in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions.



[ONE year ago] AUDIO: David Miscavige’s claim that Mexico has officially recognized Scientology as a religion
[TWO years ago] The fight over the secrets on a Scientology spy’s seized laptop that no one is talking about
[THREE years ago] Augustine: Compton scam rehab and ‘literacy crusade’ have vanished since raid
[FOUR years ago] Jon Atack looks back at his final Scientology auditing session — and how he broke free
[FIVE years ago] Tom Cruise drops his disastrous suit against Bauer Media and its magazines
[SIX years ago] Scientology in 2012: John Sweeney, Paulette Cooper, and More In a Year of Crisis for the Church


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,304 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,435 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,937 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,417 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 480 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 368 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,675 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,543 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,317 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,091 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,437 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,003 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,923 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,090 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,671 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,931 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,971 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,683 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,209 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,298 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,438 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,758 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,614 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,733 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,089 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,391 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,497 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,900 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,771 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,354 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,849 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,103 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,212 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 20, 2018 at 23:45

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates

Join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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